Volume 16, Issue 10 (October, 2012)

In this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Design a Brain Experiment Contest
4. 2012 Brain Awareness Video Winners
5. Miracle Berries
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. Support Neuroscience for Kids
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in September including:

A. September Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived

B. Design a Brain Experiment Contest

C. NFL Donates to Research
In September, 16 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for October is "The Human Connectome Project" at:

The Human Connectome Project is a collection of projects funded by the National Institutes of Health to map the neural connections in the human brain. There are two projects currently funded through this effort: the Harvard/MGH-UCLA project and the Washington University-University of Minnesota project. The Human Connectome Project web site describes research going on through these collaborative programs. My favorite section of the Harvard/MGH-UCLA project is the gallery where you can view some beautiful images and videos of the brain. Although the Washington University-University of Minnesota project does not have a nice image gallery, the "About the Project" tab provide some good information about the methods they are using to study the brain.


For the second year, the Dana Foundation is sponsoring a "Brain Experiment Contest" for high school students in the United States. The challenge is to design an original human brain-related experiment. You do not actually do the experiment. Rather, you write up a research proposal as if you were going to do the experiment. Use your knowledge about the brain and the scientific method of inquiry to create a strong proposal.

Each teacher, school official or afterschool program coordinator can submit up to five experiments. The winning experiment will receive a $500 prize and the second place project will receive $250. The deadline for the competition is January 17, 2013, and the winner will be announced during Brain Awareness Week in March, 2013.

For more detailed information about the contest, see the Dana Foundation web site at:

Good luck!


The results are in! Watch the winning 2012 Brain Awareness Videos on the Society for Neuroscience web site at:

This year's winners are:

* First Place: Ariana Andrei, Stacy Eriksson, and Marcello Mulas from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for "The Carrot."

* Second place: Jaime Tartar and Tatiana Viena from Nova Southeastern University (FL), for "One Family, Different Clocks: A tale of the brain, genes, and sleep cycles."

* Third place: Sebastian Vasquez Lopez from Newcastle University for "An Ocean of Sensations."

Honorable Mention: Kenneth Dyson and sons Taj and Deszmo, 12 and 6 years old, from University of Montreal for "Using Your Brain."

People's Choice: Jaime Tartar, PhD, and Tatiana Viena, BS, Nova Southeastern University (FL), for "One Family, Different Clocks: A Tale of the Brain, Genes, and Sleep Cycles."


Have you ever heard of a "miracle berry?" Although this little red fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is native to West Africa, it can be grown in greenhouses. In fact, that's where I found it.

A colleague of mine who is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington asked me if I had ever tried a miracle berry. When I said I hadn't, he rushed me down to the campus greenhouse. With permission from the greenhouse staff, my friend picked a few ripe berries from the miracle fruit tree. He told me to go home and chew on the berries for a few minutes and then to spit out the fruit and its small seed. I was told that chewing on the berry would make anything sour taste sweet.

I couldn't wait to get home to try it. I washed the outside of the berry and then popped the entire fruit into my mouth. The berry itself did not have much flavor and I was worried it would not have an effect on me. But I chewed and chewed and swirled it around to coat my taste buds as much as possible. Then it was the moment of truth.

The most sour item I had in my refrigerator was 100% lemon juice. I put one teaspoon of lemon juice on a spoon and drank it. It was a miracle! The lemon juice tasted like sweet lemonade. I couldn't believe it, so I tried it again. This time I drank about a quarter cup of 100% lemon juice and it tasted great. I could drink lemon juice as if it was water.

What else would turn sweet? I threw open the doors of the refrigerator and started trying everything I could find. Vinegar and soy sauce: I could drink these and the flavor was changed, but they did not really taste sweet. Tabasco sauce: the hot, burning effect of the sauce was lost on most of my tongue, but it still burned my throat. The taste of water was unchanged.

So, what is so magical about the miracle berry? The fruit contains a chemical (a glycoprotein) called miraculin. Miraculin attaches itself to receptors on taste buds so that foods with acids activate sweet receptors. Therefore, acidic foods taste sweet. The effect lasts 30-60 minutes depending on the potency of the berries, the acidity of the food and coating of the tongue with miraculin.


A. "The Language of the Brain" by Terry Sejnowski and Tobi Delbruck is the cover article in the October, 2012, issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. This article discusses how the brain makes sense of our experiences by focusing on the timing of the nerve impulses.

B. "Field Goal. How Scientists are Making Football Safer" by Alice Park (TIME magazine, October 1, 2012) describes new inventions to protect football players from brain injuries.

C. "How Do Our Brains Process Music?" (SMITHSONIAN magazine, October, 2012) is an excerpt from a new by musician David Byrne.


A. Sharks (at least the 17 types tested) are completely colorblind because they have only one type of photoreceptor in their eyes. (Source: Hart, N.S., Theiss, S.M., Harahush, B.K. and Collin, S.P., Microspectrophotometric evidence for cone monochromacy in sharks, Naturwissenschaften, 98:193-201, 2011.)

B. The brain of an aardvark weighs about 72 grams.

C. William Shakespeare wrote in "Romeo and Juliet":
True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy.

D. The specific gravity of cerebrospinal fluid is 1.007.

E. Some snails have chemosensors called "osphradia" in the mantle cavity. Osphradia are used to detect chemicals in the air or water.


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Your comments and suggestions about this newsletter and the "Neuroscience for Kids" web site are always welcome. If there are any special topics that you would like to see on the web site, just let me know.


Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.